The IRS is telling 10,000 'mission-critical' employees to bring their own face masks while calling them back to work this week

The IRS is telling 10,000 'mission-critical' employees to bring their own face masks while calling them back to work this week
FILE - This April 13, 2014, file photo shows the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters building in Washington.Associated Press
  • The IRS will call back about 10,000 employees to 10 facilities beginning Monday, according to a Politico report.
  • The employees, who will handle "mission-critical functions to handle work that must be conducted onsite," according to a leaked memo, will be working to handle tasks associated with the tax filing season and the CARES Act stimulus, according to the report.
  • In an email to employees, the IRS told all returning employees to wear face masks in the office but said workers would have to bring their own masks.
  • Employees will be asked back on a volunteer basis, but they will be ordered back to offices if there are not enough volunteers.
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About 10,000 employees of the Internal Revenue Service will be brought back to 10 offices beginning Monday, and the agency told employees to bring their own face masks with them, according to a leaked memo sent to employees of the agency on Friday.

"People have differing levels of concern associated with the current situation," read the memo, published by Democrat Reps. Richard Neal of Massachusetts and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. "As we return to the worksite, we need to respect and balance the concerns of others with the requirement to continue our mission-critical functions."

"Although the IRS is seeking to procure personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, each IRS facility may not be able to initially procure the PPE for all employees immediately," read the memo, written by IRS Human Capital Officer Robin D. Bailey, Jr. and Deputy IRS Human Capital Officer Kevin Q. McIver.

The Friday letter told returning employees to "bring personal face coverings for their nose and mouth area when they come to work." The memo directs employees to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, which says such cloth coverings can be "fashioned from common household materials," suggesting employees make them from "clean t-shirts or bandanas."

Neal, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and Lewis, the oversight subcommittee chairman, criticized the agency for the requirement that workers bring their own protective equipment.


"It is understandable that in carrying out its mission during a crisis, the agency would require some employees to report back to work during perilous times," Lewis and Neal said in a joint statement. "However, it is completely irresponsible and unethical for the IRS to demand those workers obtain their own protective equipment — this is the responsibility of the federal government to its workers."

The IRS did not immediately return Business Insider's request for comment on Sunday.

Tony Reardon, the head of the National Treasury Employees Union, told Politico there will be an "initial wave" of about 10,000 employees IRS employees ordered to return to work at 10 locations. These workers will be "opening taxpayer correspondence, handling tax documents, taking taxpayer telephone calls, and performing other functions related to the filing season," Reardon said, according to the report.

Reardon told Politico that the agency was asking workers, who have been working from home due to the ongoing pandemic, to volunteer to come back to the office and was offering incentive pay to employees who volunteered to return to the office. The IRS would order people back to work if not enough volunteered, according to the report.

The agency has more than 73,000 employees, according to IRS data. The agency is tasked with distributing the stimulus aid to Americans given by the CARES act, which was signed into law on March 27. It's also in the midst of tax filing season, which was extended until July 15.

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